Pakistan’s Supreme Court recently dismissed the murder investigation of a Christian couple in the Punjab Province, calling it biased and unsatisfactory. Father of three, Shehzad Masih and his wife Shama Bibi, who was pregnant at the time of their attack on November 4 last year, had been locked inside a brick kiln before being beaten and burnt to death by an angry mob for allegedly conducting themselves in a blasphemous manner. Their charred remains were later recovered from the site, sparking widespread outrage and protests across Pakistan.
“A two-member bench of the Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction over the police investigation and hinted at pursuing a judicial inquiry,” said Jamshed Khan, a lawyer present at the March 10 hearing. “Justice Dost Mohammad Khan, who was leading the bench, said the [police] inquiry was completely biased.”
In its investigation report, Punjab Province police claimed to have arrested 90 of the total 140 accused and filed charge sheets against 59 of them before an anti-terrorism court. The report also said that data from the mobile phone of one of the police officials at the scene pointed towards the possibility that he knew about the attack from beforehand but refused to do anything about it.
According to Khan, the bench questioned the police about why they had failed to record statements from any of the relatives of the Christian couple, including eyewitnesses, as required by Pakistan’s law under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Reportedly, the court also ruled that the police’s apparent ambivalence was the reason they had to order the setting up of a judicial commission.
“Justice Dost Muhammad Khan said the court would issue orders to set up a judicial commission during its next hearing [into the case] on March 24,” he said. Once the order is given, the Punjab government will be directed to forward all materials related to the case to a district judge for inquiry.”
An official from the Supreme Court, who refused to identify himself, said the two-member bench believes that the attack on the Christian couple exposes a steep rise in the radical views held among Pakistanis.
“If police treat such horrible incidents lightly, they could soon lose all their authority,” he said. “The court has directed the police chief to arrest all the accused and provide complete security to the family of the murdered victims after getting their statements.”
Photo Credits: Direct Matin